BY MATT MCGREGOR
The Launch of WW100
Earlier this week, New Zealand officially commemorated the outbreak of World War One with, fittingly enough, both a 100-gun salute and a field of 100 white crosses on the Parliamentary lawn. The centenary is, rightfully, a big deal, and will be for the next four years. As the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s lovely WW100 site points out, the events of 1914-1918 “touched nearly every New Zealand family, every community, school, workplace and club or group” in the country.
As you might expect, much of the New Zealand GLAM sector – that’s Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums – has been busily working on ways to mark the centenary, both for its own sake, but also to draw attention to the depth and quality of our local heritage collections. The hub for these efforts is the aforementioned WW100 site, which provides a range of resources, including a nice new search filter for WW1 materials. The WW100 folks will also be organising events, activities and projects all over the country for the next four years.
Opening the ‘H’ Series
Part of the promise of the centenary is, of course, to help teach New Zealanders about the events that — as many speeches and essays over the next four years will undoubtedly point out — shaped them as a nation. To put this another way, the centenary promises to help remind New Zealanders that this is their history: regardless of whether one had family members in the war — or even had family members in New Zealand — the war shaped the kind of place that New Zealand became.
And if the events are part of New Zealand’s common heritage, then so too are many of the works from that era. Recognising this, some of the largest organisations in the local GLAM sector have been working to ensure that the most significant heritage items from the war are made openly available to everyone, free of all technical, price and legal restrictions.
A particularly interesting example of this is the efforts of the Alexander Turnbull Library – working in tandem with organisations across the culture and heritage sector – to release the ‘H’ series of WW1 photographs.
The H series are photographs taken by Henry Armytage Sanders, and they are, as Melanie Lovell-Smith points out in a detailed background piece, “the most comprehensive visual record of New Zealanders on the Western front from 1917 to 1918.” As Lovell-Smith points out, before 1917, New Zealand didn’t have an official photographer – due to the expense — which means that the only photographs before that date were those taken by the New Zealand troops themselves.
The piece goes into much more fascinating detail about both Sanders and the H Series itself, including the circuitous route of the negatives – via the RSA – to the Alexander Turnbull Library.
The latest chapter in this long archival story is that the ATL has released digital reproductions of these photographs, in high resolution, with clear ‘no known copyright’ statements. This means that anyone, anywhere, can view, share, download and reuse the official record of New Zealand in World War One, without asking permission or paying a fee.
This follows the passage of the National Library of New Zealand’s Use and Reuse policy (mentioned by Richard earlier in the week), principle five of which asserts that “Where no copyright restriction applies, NLNZ will seek to provide the items for use and reuse with a statement of ‘no known copyright restrictions’, after careful consideration of cultural and ethical issues relating to the items.”
Opening more NZ GLAMs
While the release of the H Series is very exciting, it is just the latest in a run of Open GLAM developments. Beyond the publication of the National Library’s open policy, Te Papa has also released over 30,000 open images under high resolution. 14,000 of these are made available under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND licence; 17,000 have been released without any copyright restrictions whatsoever. This release by Te Papa has been several years in the making, as our case study, written in 2012, makes clear.
These content releases and open policies will surely be the first of many. There are hundreds of heritage institutions in New Zealand, with many millions of high quality works. As these works are digitised — as they have been for the last fifteen or so years — it’s important that they are released as free of price, technical and legal restrictions as possible, so that as many New Zealanders (and non-New Zealanders) as possible can access and engage with works from their own heritage.
As was noted in some of the preliminary discussions behind the release of the H Series, New Zealand’s culture and heritage sector does not have clear, standardised rights statements, and sometimes imposes additional price, legal or technical restrictions on the reuse of heritage works. Heritage institutions will need to adopt clear policies and processes to be, as Thomasin Sleigh, Community Manager of DigitalNZ and the kiwi representative on the Open GLAM Working Group, puts it, “clear, consistent, and open with our cultural collections.”
Over the next few month, and leading up to the National Digital Forum in November, we at Creative Commons Aotearoa NZ will be doing our best to help out, mostly by producing standard resources for an Open GLAM toolkit. There are, happily, a heap of support for these policies from the sector itself.
In advance of that, though — and to give you a sense of what is happening in New Zealand — you might want to check out this detailed case study of the Rijksmuseum, one of the world’s leading open heritage institutions. While you’re at it, you can also check out our (smaller) case study of Upper Hutt City Library, to show you what’s already being done.
Matt McGregor is the Public Lead for Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand.